Oct 022016

Today’s post is all about you, especially if you’re a paper crafter. It’s once more giveaway time, so read further about how to qualify for the random drawing.

I had the fortune yesterday to visit Memory Bound, my local scrapbooking store, when it was celebrating its 15th anniversary. In addition to offering a 15% discount on everything, shoppers were given one ticket to drop in a glass bowl for every $25 they spent. I didn’t count exactly how many bowls there were, but the bowls corresponded to merchandise giveaways, with the winners being announced at five o’clock that afternoon. To my surprise and delight, I took home two of the giveaways—two tote bags filled with crafting goodies. Each bag also contained one item that was signed by Tim Holtz, a creative designer and Senior Educator for Ranger Industries.

The merchandise I won reminded me that it’s been a while since I did a giveaway, so I have decided to offer one again. The only “catch” is that the giveaway requires at least 10 entrants. My last giveaway, Giveaway: Spellbinders® Love Locket die set, required 5 entrants and surprisingly did not have that many people, so I am including that item in this much larger giveaway. The individuals who followed that giveaway’s rules will be included in the current giveaway. Shown below are the items you will receive if your name is drawn.


The items included in this paper crafter’s giveaway are valued at a little over $150. You must enter the drawing by October 15, 2016.

To qualify for this giveaway, tell me in the comments below what your most recent paper crafting project was about. If you blogged or posted a photo about your project, please provide a link—although this is not required to enter the random drawing. The deadline for the giveaway is October 15, 2016. I will announce the winner after I reach that person via email.

Good luck! I look forward to reading your responses.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 252016

Are you a one-book-at-a-time reader, or do you read multiple items simultaneously in the same way you did during your school days? I confess that my reading habits are eclectic, so you’ll find both books and magazines lying on every flat surface in the house, but also in a bag I take to work every day. I read magazines from back to front (odd, I know), skip around in non-fiction books, and read only one fiction novel at a time. In the fiction aisles I enjoy reading historical romance, suspense thrillers and science fiction, but the non-fiction topics I like best center on writing, creativity or some kind of craft. I’m fascinated, however, by Viking history and am not at all averse to fantasy—I gobbled up Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy as the books were released, one by one.

I think it’s fun, too, to compare reading lists with others, so I’m going to share my current list with you, and hope you’ll either tell me in the comments below this post what you are reading, or provide a link to a post you’ve written about the same topic. In that vein, here we go!

DIY MFA, by Gabriela Pereira. I have always had a deep desire to acquire an MFA in creative writing, but have had neither the funding nor the time to dedicate to it. Gabriela Pereira debunks the myths that surround the reasons for acquiring such an MFA, and builds her book around the idea that anyone with a desire to write can design his or her own customized writing program by combining the same elements present in most MFA programs: writing with focus, reading with purpose, and building your community. Although Gabriela’s book probably applies best to those who wish to write a fiction novel, her exercises apply to other types of creative writing, too. Her Web site, diymfa.com, is chock full of interesting articles and podcasts, and features a writing prompt app called Writer Igniter that automatically generates a prompt that you can use to exercise your writing muscles. Once you have purchased her book, visit diymfa.com/the book to get book bonuses and free access to the DIY MFA starter course. Although Gabriela’s book is not the first to provide a do-it-yourself writing program—there’s also The Portable MFA in Creative Writing, Fiction Writer’s Workshop, Gotham Writer’s Workshop: Writing Fiction, and Writing Alone and With Others—her book has a fresh step-by-step approach to blending reading, writing and community that not all books on the same topic share.


The Butterfly Hours, by Patty Dann. On my bucket list is writing a book of memories I can pass on to our son and his cousins. Patty Dan’s slim volume is thick on memories and lessons that focus on helping you transform your memories into memoir through the art of storytelling. Her book is essentially the same memoir-writing workshop she has offered to YMCA students for more than 25 years. The Butterfly Hours is peppered with stories written not only by Patty but also by her students, often triggered by single words designed to evoke memories. There are 10 lessons in the book, each filled with single-word writing prompts that will make your fingers itch to write. I fell in love with the book the moment I read Patty’s story about her late first husband, Willem, who had brain cancer. When her husband, who spoke Dutch and other languages, gradually forgot more and more of these words, he whispered to her one day, “Lieveling, we have to remember the butterfly hours.” That’s what our memories are like, of course—butterflies that flit from one location to another, creating an invisible path laced with moments that tell the story of their journey. You’ll come back again and again to the one-word memory triggers in The Butterfly Hours, telling different stories each time. I love this book!


The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, by Todd Henry. The premise behind this book is that your living requires you to generate creative ideas continuously, and that you need to find a way to keep good ones coming. The book applies as much to a writer as it does to a campaign manager; Todd Henry defines as a “creative” someone who solves problems, develops strategies, or generates new ideas. Sounds like everyone, doesn’t it? Todd believes that anyone can be taught to be more creative by injecting purpose into the creative process. The first three chapters of the book describe the common challenges creative people face in the workplace, while the remaining six chapters provide strategies for keeping those creative ideas coming in such a way that spells the opposite of mediocrity. Todd discusses the fallacy of compartmentalization—trying to keep your work life separate from your home life, for example—as well as the importance of balancing isolation with sharing when you are a naturally introverted creative. Even if you don’t have to earn a living being creative, The Accidental Creative will provide you with some food for thought, as well as some coping strategies for performing creatively at a high level over a long period of time.


Flow Magazine, Issue 14. Flow, a Dutch magazine published by Flow Magazine International, is my favorite magazine about mindfulness. I own every issue but the first one, which is sadly no longer available. The subtitle of this juicy volume, available four times a year, reads “celebrating creativity, imperfection and life’s little pleasures.” Issue 14, like every other issue, is divided into four sections featuring such articles as the following:

  • Feel connected features an interview with designer Lotta Jansdotter.
  • Live mindfully discusses how art journaling works and why it benefits you.
  • Spoil yourself profiles designer Sacha Vink, who recycles, revamps and reuses old furniture and furniture parts in new ways.
  • Simplify your life tells the story of journalist Anneke Bots, who spends 30 days testing “the sharing economy.”

Every issue of Flow includes illustrations and quotes you’ll want to save, as well as bonus goodies you can remove from the magazine and use. Issue 14, for example, includes a Tiny Pleasures Art Journal. Every issue is a gift, if you’ll pardon the cliché, that keeps on giving. You’ll find the magazine in your local bookstore, but you can order individual issues or purchase a subscription from the publication office in the Netherlands. Interestingly, the difference in cost between purchasing the magazine here in the U.S. and overseas is not that great.


The Sun, October 2016 issue. The Sun is a monthly literary magazine published by The Sun Publishing Company, a non-profit organization. The magazine describes itself as “Personal. Political. Provocative. Ad-free.” I would add that it is supported entirely by readers. Its slick pages are populated with letters from readers, black-and-white photography, interviews, essays, memoirs, true stories, fiction, poetry, editorials, and a reader column called “Readers Write” that features well-written stories about topics that are announced in advance. This issue’s topic was “Restaurants.” I began subscribing to the magazine after I received a letter about it in the mail. The envelope included a sample story, a flash fiction story called Dinosaur, by Bruce Holland Rogers, about a boy who thought he was a dinosaur—a brilliant piece of writing that is only a tad over 300 words. I was charmed, provoked, saddened and gladdened, all at the same time. Read it and see if you don’t agree, and then send in your subscription order.


The Silver Witch, by Paula Brackston. Through the Kindle app on my iPad, I am reading my way through Paula Brackston’s novels about witches, stories whose deeper meaning make them rise above the average teen witch or vampire novel. Except for two novels that are connected, The Witch’s Daughter and The Return of the Witch, each of Paula’s books stands alone. Without giving away so much that I spoil the reading of the story for you, I will tell you that The Silver Witch is less about a woman who is a witch and more about a woman who loses herself after her husband dies, but gradually finds herself by connecting with others in her community and with her personal history, which just happens to involve a witch from centuries earlier. I am also fascinated by Paula’s writing from a writer’s point of view in that all of her books are told in the first person, in the present tense. This is difficult to do well, but the author does so with remarkable skill, bringing an immediacy to the action that is, of course, intended.


What are you reading now? Please share your reading list in the comments below.

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

Sep 172016

It’s that time of year once more, when preparations for fall craft shows are in full swing for crafters everywhere. Although it may feel, especially during the last few weeks before a show takes place, that things aren’t coming together fast enough, preparations for a successful selling event actually begin many months earlier. Unless you are selling at the same venues every year, you’ll have researched different possibilities ahead of time. Registration usually takes place at least six months before a craft show, although it is not unusual for confirmation to arrive as late as a month or two before an event. Meanwhile, you still have to take care of details under the assumption that you will be selling where you have registered.


This post describes some of the usual tasks involved before, during and after craft shows, once you have registered for an event. Whether you sell at only two craft shows a year—which is typical for me—or as many as half a dozen craft shows or more, you’ll go through these preparations.

  1. Identify your best sellers. When you sell at a craft show, it’s not particularly effective to bring everything you make. That’s sort of like throwing mud up against a wall to see what sticks. To be fair, however, you probably will learn what your best sellers are over time. You may have to fail at a craft show before you can succeed. This also means you may need to sell at the same venue several times, tweaking different factors before you discover what works best for you. What I have learned for myself, for example, is that my crocheted winter accessories outsell my handmade books at craft shows, so obviously that is where I need to focus.


  1. Design your booth. What I appreciate as a shopper often guides me in setting up my booth as a seller. An attractive display, merchandise that is organized and accessible, and easily visible signage are important to me as a shopper, so those are some of the basics to which I adhere when I set up a booth. Make sure you know ahead of time whether the ambient lighting is appropriate for your items, or whether you will need to supplement it. Don’t assume electricity will be available; research ahead of time and pay for accessibility, if necessary. Be prepared for different table setup configurations, too, unless you have been guaranteed a specific location in advance. Although many venues will rent tables to you, you increase your flexibility when you bring your own tables. I have four-foot, five-foot and six-foot long heavy-duty folding tables that I can set up in various ways. Additionally, design your booth so that your merchandise does not lie entirely flat. The closer you can bring items to eye level, the easier you make it for your customers to shop. This also makes your booth more visually interesting. Don’t be afraid to invest in fixtures; over time that investment will pay off. The same thought applies to attractive table coverings; even if you use table cloths (as I do) instead of fitted coverings, make sure you stick to one color that doesn’t detract from what you sell, and make sure the table covering extends to the floor, especially from the customer’s side.
Blogging Business Artisans friend, Edi Royer, uses fitted black coverings for her tables. She varies the height of merchandise on the table, and has a shelving unit for her laser-etched glassware.

Blogging Business Artisans friend, Edi Royer, uses fitted black coverings for her tables. She varies the height of merchandise on the table, and has a shelving unit for her laser-etched glassware.

  1. Price your merchandise. I cannot state strongly enough how important it is for your items to be clearly marked with prices. Many shoppers will simply move on to the next booth if they have to ask the seller about the price. Absolutely use price tags, consider using removable adhesive labels that don’t leave a residue, and use tent cards. Post clearly whether or not you accept credit cards. Most people bring a limited amount of cash with them and don’t want to spend it in only one booth. Research payment options such as Square, PayPal, or Etsy that use a smart phone to process credit card transactions. (See also this post, My new Square reader finally arrived.)
  1. Have an advertising plan. Sometimes customers are not ready to purchase from you at a craft show. Provide as much information as you can, answering questions and suggesting options. Most importantly, prepare for post event sales by having business cards on hand that provide contact information. Consider having a banner printed for your booth that similarly provides contact information. Vista Print, for examples, prints high-quality banners for under $20 and even provides online design options. If you are doing multiple craft shows, have a stack of handouts available that provides buyers with dates and locations. You can also invite buyers to join your email list; be very clear, however, how this email list will be used. Many people feel that email lists are a source of spam.
I use a banner from Vista Print that I pin to the table covering for my handmade books.

I use a banner from Vista Print that I pin to the table covering for my handmade books.

  1. Arrange for help. Will you need assistance in toting tables, shelves and merchandise to the craft show? Will you need help after the show, when you vacate your selling space? It takes energy to set up selling space, energy you’ll need to use when you chat with potential buyers, so the more help you get with housekeeping tasks, the better you’ll feel overall about the selling experience. It’s nice, too, if you can find a friend or relative to help you sell; you never know when you will have to leave the booth for bathroom or snack breaks, or to take care of other business.
My husband, John, helps me during every craft show with booth set-up, take-down and selling.

My husband, John, helps me during every craft show with booth set-up, take-down and selling.

  1. Plan for the next show. Be situationally aware while you are at a craft show. Listen to your buyers’ conversations, noting suggestions for wished-for items or alterations. Obviously you will not be able to please every person, but you can take note of any patterns in questions or comments. Keep your eyes open for booth display ideas, and take time to chat with other sellers. You never know what selling tips you will pick up. When you get home from a craft show, assess your results. What items sold out? What items were requested that you did not have on hand? What items sold best or least? What items do you need to replace before the next show? Identify what went well, what could be improved, and what steps you can take to make future changes.

You’ll find other tips for craft show preparation in some of my older posts, as follows:

If you are planning to sell at one or more craft shows this fall, what preparation tips can you add to this list?

© 2016 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.